A prominent contemporary phenomenon is "backsliding'' of democratic countries into (semi-)authoritarian practices. Importantly, such episodes unfold over time, and often involve uncertainty about the ultimate intentions of governments. Building on recent, we present a model in which a government engages in a reform that may allow for subsequent actions that are inconsistent with the rule of law. Citizens must decide whether to replace the incumbent following the reform. Consistent with existing work, the model suggests that polarization is an important factor in democratic backsliding. More importantly, the model demonstrates that in a dynamic setting, citizens may support incumbent governments even if citizens are fundamentally opposed to authoritarianism. One consequence is that citizens may genuinely regret their electoral choices. We illustrate the model's implications using a survey experiment in contemporary Poland.
Monika Nalepa (PhD, Columbia University) is an associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago. With a focus on post-communist Europe, her research interests include transitional justice, parties and legislatures, and game-theoretic approaches to comparative politics. Her first book, Skeletons in the Closet: Transitional Justice in Post-Communist Europe was published in the Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series and received the Best Book award from the Comparative Democratization section of the APSA and the Leon Epstein Outstanding Book Award from the Political Organizations and Parties section of the APSA. She has just completed her second book, Ritual Sacrifices: Transitional Justice and the Fate of Post-authoritarian Elites. She has also published articles in the Journal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, the Journal of Comparative Politics, World Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Theoretical Politics, Parliamentary Affairs, and Constitutional Political Economy. Monika Nalepa is the Director of the Transitional Justice and Democratic Stability Lab, which produces the Global Transitional Justice Dataset.